Pregnancy is a very crucial part in a women's life because both the life of baby and mother depends how well the pregnancy goes. The only aim during pregnancy is to keep the pregnancy disease or illness free. Mother's health is maintained if she takes proper diet and required medicines for the growth of the child. 

Pregnant women can get lot of essential vitamins and nutrients from the food. A pregnant woman should have a diet consists of variety of foods including -

  • Proteins
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Vitamins 
  • Minerals

The right amount of nutrients help in the growth of baby and maintains the health of mother. Vitamins and minerals play very important role in the growth of baby. Any deficiencies in any of the vitamins or minerals can lead to the illness both to a mother and baby. 

Let's understand the importance of vitamins and minerals during the pregnancy.

Vitamin A, C, D, E and B-complex are essential vitamins and  iron, calcium, and folic acid are essential minerals necessary to maintain various functions of the body during pregnancy.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A are of two types - one that is obtained from animal called as Retinols while other that is obtained from fruits and vegetables or plant source, called as Carotenoids. Vitamin A is very important for the baby's growth during embryonic stage which includes development of heart, lungs, kidneys, respiratory systems, circulatory systems and central nervous systems. It also helps baby to develop the resistance to the infection and helps in the development of vision.

Vitamin A is also essential in women during and after the pregnancy as it helps to repair the tissues post delivery. 

Best source of Vitamin A is all kind of fruits, carrots, leafy vegetables, milk, fish, eggs and meat. It is best to avoid Vitamin A supplements as excess use of Vitamin A can harm the baby and develop the birth defects. It is always recommended to obtain Vitamin A from the food source. 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C promotes the healing of wound and damaged tissues, and bone growth. It also acts as good immune response, as it helps to fight the infection. Both mother and baby need Vitamin C as it is necessary for the body to make collagen, which is a protein and a component of bones, skin, tissues and cartilages. Deficiency of Vitamin C in babies can affect the mental development. 

Pregnant women need adequate amount of Vitamin C which can be obtained from citrus food like lemon, orange, fruits and leafy vegetables. If pregnant women eats balanced nutritious diet there is no need to use Vitamin C supplement as excess use of Vitamin C is also harmful for both. 

Vitamin D

The most important function of Vitamin D is to maintain the levels f Calcium and Phosphorus in our body. These two minerals are essential for the development of bones and teeth. Deficiency of Vitamin D can affect both mother and baby. Lack of Vitamin D can cause affect the development of bones in the baby and such babies more likely develop a condition called Rickets, which is the deformity of bones due to improper development, in which the bones are so brittle that they get frequently fractured. Also lack of this vitamin affects the immune functions immediately after the birth of baby till the adulthood or even after that. Pregnant women is more likely to develop risks during the pregnancy due to deficiency of Vitamin D. 

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is mainly involved in maintaining the immune functions of our body, hence it helps to prevent many chronic diseases. Vitamin E is found naturally in various food items. Vegetable oil, green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals and nuts are the best source of vitamin E. Soybeans and corn also has good amount of Vitamin E. 

Vitamin E deficiency is very rare to occur as it is available in many forms. However, for pregnant women with low intake of Vitamin E may cause complications like low birth weight baby, and other complications during the pregnancy. Hence it is usually recommended to consume more vegetables and nuts during pregnancy to make significant amount of Vitamin E. It is also advised to not to consume vitamin E supplements during pregnancy unless there is really a need of this as supplemental intake of Vitamin E can be harmful for health. 

Vitamin B Complex

Vitamin B includes 8 vitamins like Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6,B7, B12 and Folic acid. These vitamins helps to maintain our body functions by helping the body processes to make energy from the food we eat.  They are also essential to form the red blood cells in our body.

All these vitamins comes from different sources, however some common and good source of getting vitamin complex is leafy vegetables, beas, fish, meat and some fortified food like cereals. 

Lack of any of these vitamin B leads harmful effects on the body. Especially lack of Vitamin B6 and B12 leads to anemia which makes women very weak and produce complications during the pregnancy. B6, B12 and Folic acid are very important vitamins for pregnancy. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need Vitamin B6 to help their babies develop the normal brain functions. Insufficient amount of Vitamin B6 can cause anemia, skin disorders, depressions, and catch infection frequently due to low immunity. 

 Folic acid is critical for the development of nervous system and spinal cord of baby. Also Folic acid is essential for women during initial week of pregnancy as well. It is recommended to consume folic acid supplements for women who are planning to get pregnant as it helps to prevent birth defects. Also recommended to start folic acid supplements before conception and continue at least 3 months of pregnancy. Good source of folic acid is green leafy vegetable, fortified cereals, and rice. 

 Iron

We all know that iron is essential in all every stage of life, essential for children, adults and for elders as well. However the requirement of iron exceeds during the pregnancy.

The most important function of iron is to production of red blood cells and hemoglobin. During pregnancy, the demand of iron increases as women need to support increased red blood cells. This helps the growth of baby in the womb with normal development of brain and other body functions. As the pregnancy progresses, more iron is required.

Most of the time it is difficult to get all the required iron only from the food source hence some doctors recommend iron supplements during the pregnancy.  Best source of iron is meat. Women who do not consume meat suffers mainly from anemia (lack of iron). Plant based good source of iron is green leafy vegetable especially spinach and lettuce, beans, and lentils. 

Deficiency of iron during pregnancy can make women very weak, tired, dizzy. Additionally, the immune system of baby becomes weaker and baby becomes more vulnerable to infections. Women must take care that she consumes adequate amount of healthy food during the pregnancy. 

Calcium

Calcium is another important mineral necessary during the pregnancy for the growth of baby. Developing baby usually needs calcium to build strong muscles, bones,teeth and growth of healthy internal organs like heart. 

If a women do not consume adequate amount of calcium during the pregnancy, there is a high risk of developing low bone strength in baby and women as well.  Calcium can be consumed from lot of food items like milk, yogurt, green leafy vegetables like broccoli, and spinach, and seafood. Women who in intolerant to dairy products can substitute milk with tofu or take little quantity of milk along with food as it may become tolerable with food. 

There is no need of calcium tablets unless there is severe calcium deficiency. Most of the time food source of calcium should be able to replenish some amount of deficiency. Excess use of Calcium supplement can be harmful, so always take the advise of your doctor before taking any supplements. 

 

Conclusion

Along with other nutrients like proteins, carbohydrates and fats, vitamins and minerals as necessary as well for the development of baby and health of women during the pregnancy. Try to include all kind of food items in your diet especially leafy vegetables, in order to get sufficient amount of all vitamins and minerals. Also consult your physician if you want to start any supplements, don't self prescribe any medications. 


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